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Prof. Stephen Toope leads the Advisory Group for LEAD - photo by Martin Dee
Prof. Stephen Toope leads the Advisory Group for LEAD - photo by Martin Dee

UBC Reports | Vol. 54 | No. 9 | Sep. 4, 2008

LEADing a New Campus Focus on Learning

By Brian Lin

In the same way that it has excelled in research over the past decades, UBC is poised to improve teaching and learning through a campus-wide initiative that has already begun with the Carl Wieman Science Education Initiative (CWSEI), President Stephen Toope told a gathering of faculty members this summer.

“I am deeply committed to the fundamental mission of education at UBC and what’s so exciting for me is that there clearly is a widespread commitment, and it’s deeply rooted in our tradition,” Prof. Toope told faculty members who attended a summary meeting for the Lasting Education, Achieved, and Demonstrated (LEAD) initiative in early June.

The meeting was a report back on nine small group discussions in the Vancouver and Okanagan campuses -- aptly named “LEAD Meetings” -- earlier this spring and part of an ongoing brainstorming and consultation process for LEAD. More than 250 faculty members exchanged ideas about teaching and learning and their vision for providing a transformative post-secondary education, says Lorne Whitehead, University Leader of Education Innovation and a member of the LEAD Advisory Group.

“We had a lot of truly thoughtful and inspiring discussions at the LEAD Meetings,” says Whitehead. “More activities are planned for the fall to help bring faculty together to envision -- and implement -- the future of education and communicate these ideas here and beyond.”

“The LEAD meetings have confirmed that many faculty at UBC are passionate about educating students and yearn for greater effectiveness and efficiency,” says Electrical and Computer Engineering Assoc. Prof. John Madden, who attended a LEAD Meeting.

“We recognize there are limitations to our current teaching approaches and the stage is now set for a university-wide drive to evaluate and improve learning.”

Toope adds that major fundraising efforts are already under way to support changes deemed necessary at the department level in faculties in addition to Science. More than $1.5 million has already been invested in four departments in the Faculty of Science through the CWSEI, headed by Nobel Laureate Carl Wieman. Another four departments have also received seed funding to incorporate the latest proven advances in teaching and learning.

Since January 2007, faculty and CWSEI-funded Science Teaching and Learning Fellows have been working on 16 major courses, affecting more than 10,000 undergraduate students both in and outside of the Faculty of Science.

“We’ve made great strides,” says Wieman. “But we’ve also identified many opportunities where we can improve.”

“LEAD aims to take the CWSEI vision and implement it across the university -- and ultimately to other universities around the world,” says David Farrar, Provost and Vice-President Academic.

“UBC has done tremendously well in increasing its research capacity by drawing from its brilliant faculty and we’d like to do the same in propelling UBC to the forefront of teaching and learning excellence,” adds Farrar, who is also a member of the LEAD Advisory Group.

Toope says that just as we see a variety of measures being taken by science departments working with the CWSEI, LEAD isn’t seeking one formulaic approach to education, nor a template of what a university graduate should be. “That would be fundamentally wrong for what we stand for as a university.

“We do want our students to feel satisfied, and by that I mean deriving from their educational experience something they feel is profoundly encouraging, and potentially life-changing,” says Toope.

“That I think is something we do well, but can always do better.”

New Dual Degree Prepares Science Teachers

The Faculties of Science and Education are joining forces to encouraging science students to consider teaching as a rewarding career.

The dual BSc-BEd program, to be launched this fall, allows science majors to begin taking Faculty of Education courses towards a secondary teaching specialization as early as their second year.

Better equipped science teachers in elementary and secondary schools will in turn increase the cohort of qualified and engaged science undergraduates -- and later on, graduate students in B.C. universities, says Science dean Simon Peacock.

“Students who are inspired at a young age to think about science as an exciting way of understanding the world around them are more likely to choose science -- or science education -- as a career,” says Peacock.

Faculty and advisors in both Science and Education faculties have found that a significant number of UBC students apply to the Bachelor of Education program on completing their science degrees. Historically, up to 40 per cent of the students admitted to the faculty’s Teacher Education Program for secondary schools hold a Bachelor of Science or equivalent degree.

Through the dual degree program, students can maintain core studies as a science major in physics or math and gradually increase their education courses and in-school experiences. Students are also required to complete a fifth-year, which includes both science courses and an extended teaching practicum. The BEd aspect of the dual degree designation qualifies graduates for recommendation to the B.C. College of Teachers for a Professional Teaching Certificate.

“By introducing education theory and practice to undergraduate science students earlier on in their academic career, we hope to catalyze their thinking around complex scientific concepts in the context of presenting them to children and youth,” says Gary Rupert, Program Coordinator in the Faculty of Education.

A 2000 Survey of Recent Graduates conducted by the B.C. College of Teachers -- the most recent such study done in the province -- shows that only 5.6 per cent of respondents indicated they had a major, minor or concentration in math. Of the same respondents, 17.7 per cent suggested they taught math regularly.

UBC Okanagan Teaming Up to Get Kids Buzzed About Math and Science

By Bud Mortenson

Will enough of today’s children grow up to be engineers and scientists to keep Canada’s economy booming when the nation’s Baby Boomers -- now approaching their senior years -- have retired from their math- and science-intensive careers?

To take on the challenge of a looming skills shortage in science and engineering, Okanagan education and industry partners are holding the first-ever Fuelling the Economy of the Future symposium, October 24 and 25 in the south Okanagan city of Penticton.

Organizing the symposium are UBC Okanagan’s School of Engineering, Okanagan College, Central Okanagan School District 23, the Okanagan Science and Technology Council, the Okanagan Research and Innovation Centre, and the Central Okanagan Economic Development Commission.

“It is unusual for such a diverse group of educators, administrators, and industry representatives to gather to discuss how to attract and retain students in these vital fields,” says Spiro Yannacopoulos, Associate Dean and Director of UBC Okanagan’s School of Engineering. “We know it is crucial for the health of our local and national economies to keep our students enrolled in science, engineering, and technology programs.”

The two-day symposium -- part of Canada’s National Science and Technology Week -- has been scheduled to include the Okanagan region’s professional development day for teachers. It will feature several prominent keynote speakers including UBC’s Nobel laureate physicist Carl Wieman (by video), and Bruce Aikenhead, retired director-general of the Canadian Astronaut Program.

Complete details about the Fuelling the Economy of the Future symposium and registration information can be found online at www.ubc.ca/okanagan/engineering/fef.

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Last reviewed 05-Sep-2008

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